When Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS began, I was in New Jersey on business. I sat in a crowded hotel bar with my boss, chewing a burger and sipping a beer and watching the Sox build a 4-0 lead. Surrounded by enemy agents, I kept to myself, silently applauded home runs by Nixon and Miller and shuffled off to my room when the late innings arrived. There, with the TV providing the only light in the room, I paced and moaned and rubbed my brow as I watched the lead evaporate and the unthinkable unravel.

We all know how that one ended. And I, like you, carried it with me for a long, long time. It gnawed at me as I sat at my desk. Churned in my gut as I waded in traffic, listening to sports radio. Haunted me even as the signings of Keith Foulke and Curt Schilling were announced later that winter.

If someone had told me back then, that very evening, the way things would unfold in the 2004 ALCS, I would not have believed them. That we would have the chance, one year later, to return to the scene of the crime, embarrass the Yankees on their own turf, on an even grander scale? I would have asked them to put down the crack pipe and move along, good sir. Even the guys who make MLB picks for a living counted out the Red Sox, which made it all that much better

But it was real. And it happened. And it was spectacular. One year after Aaron Boone sent us all, single file, to the Tobin Bridge, the Red Sox said “screw you” to history and curses and the MLB food chain and treated the Yankees to a whipping never before seen in the history of Major League Baseball’s postseason. While New York fans stared in disbelief, wondering how in the fuck a 19-8 drubbing opened the doors to this collapse, Manny and Pedro and Curt and Johnny and Lowe and the rest of the idiots danced on the green, sprayed champagne at the fans and played grab-ass into the wee hours. The place that had come to epitomize Red Sox Nation’s misery was born again as the site of our greatest happiness.

It made no sense, yet it was the only thing that did make sense.

And when it all wrapped up, the minute Reese scooped that ground ball and hucked it to Mientkiewicz, I collapsed in a heap on the floor. Then I got up and checked my bets at buaksib.com to confirm it. Then I passed out again. Drunk, hungover, malnourished, exhausted, mentally and physically pushed to the limits over the preceding 72 hours. With all respect to the St. Louis Cardinals, that ALCS was our World Series. Hell, it was like 15 World Series rolled up, smoked, then liquified and injected into our eyeballs.

Hard to believe it was 15 years ago tonight. Seems like yesterday. Now it’s time to focus on the future of the Red Sox.